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"All Geeked-Up for the Deadline..."
Newtown Square, PA • United States • 45 Years Old • Male

If you listen carefully, you just might hear the sounds of knees jerking in a building in New York City. The powers that be in the NHL are cringing right now at another prime-time, graphic injury to one of its young players, perhaps even a budding star, during its showcase playoffs. Those same powers that be are also probably heaving a huge sigh of relief that the name on the sweater was not Malkin or Crosby, but I digress. The redirected Hall Gill shot that struck the young, stud defenseman, Braydon Coburn, under the left eye in the opening period of Game 2 in Pittsburgh was nothing short of tragic. If you are a member of the Orange and Black faithful, it borders on something between the worst of all possible luck to a Billy Penn's Hat-type conspiracy theory.

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As I watched blood seep onto the ice, I looked to confirm that he was not wearing a shield. My immediate reaction was, "I bet that might not have happened if he was wearing a visor." Followed quickly by, "the NHL needs to make shields mandatory." Upon further review, I am surprised at myself for such a reaction.

This is not an uppity game of tiddlywinks, a foul tempered checkers match or even a slightly unfriendly game of "Red Rover." This is the NHL, people!

Pucks are shot between 80 and 100 miles per hour with regularity. Defensemen lay their bodies out - willingly I might add - to try to block these 1x3" hunks of vulcanized rubber just so they can try to keep that shot away from their netminder. Physical specimens, standing 6'7" on skates, throw their 220+ pound bodies around with bad intent every shift. Sticks get up, elbows are thrown and tempers flair. It is a rough sport with some very tough customers. What happened to Braydon Coburn is a shame, but it should not and must not send the knee of some safety-nazi flying though the desk top. What happened to Coburn was an accident. It was a deflection. No matter how tragic it may be, it was still an accident. Was it a preventable accident?

I defy anyone to definitively prove that if Coburn was wearing a visor that the injury that occurred would have been prevented. Could it have? Maybe. Should he, or any NHL player, have been smart enough to not even think of taking the ice in this league without a visor? That is a personal choice - I know I would not even think about skating in a game without one. But that is my choice. Should visors be made MANDATORY by the NHL? No way.

This wonderful game of ours is as brutal as it is graceful. What would be a tragedy is if the league stepped in every time there was an accident to regulate out the possibility of it occurring again. It is not too far fetched to imagine hockey players skating around looking like this:

The league has been pushing for mandatory eye/face protection for years now. The Union would not consider it as part of the collective bargaining agreement and, in fact, a large portion of the NHLPA's membership was in opposition to any such language saying that the issue is one of personal choice. Some numbers show a percentage of players not wearing protective visors to be somewhere between 60-70%. Whether that choice has its roots in an image of manliness and not hiding behind a visor, to not being able to see the ice as well or whatever, until or unless the NHLPA membership changes its collective minds, the choice for players to wear or not wear visors needs to remain just that, a choice.

If you are serious about wanting to eliminate eye and facial injuries in the NHL, then that leaves you just one option - mandatory full face shields. I am pretty sure that the Union is not ready to go that route, yet. It may happen. But not because of Braydon Coburn.

Will Braydon Coburn suit up in his first non-injury game next season wearing a visor? I am interested to find out the answer to that question. We will have to wait and see. I just don't want someone jerking a knee to decide that for him.

Thanks for reading...

Filed Under:   Flyers   Braydon Coburn   SYF  
May 13, 2008 11:08 AM ET | Delete
If he plays he will have to wear a full shield or cage to protect the cut.
May 13, 2008 11:23 AM ET | Delete
Phig - I fully understand the ramifications of his injury as it pertains to this year. What I wrote was this, "Will Braydon Coburn suit up in his first non-injury game next season"...I am just curious if this injury will effect his long term thinking regarding shields.Beyond this, what did you think of the blog?Thanks,SYF
May 13, 2008 11:33 AM ET | Delete
Great job as always SYF. Keep your eyes open, I should have a new one in the next day or so. - SZ
May 13, 2008 11:42 AM ET | Delete
SYF - agreed - here is my take from awhile back http://my.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?user_id=32416
May 13, 2008 12:35 PM ET | Delete
Come on. Seriously. Good points on the choice of wearing a visor being just that: a choice. But to imply wearing a visor (which is basically only protecting your eyes, and ask Bryan Berard how important your eyesight is for playing hockey), would take away from the toughness of the game is just stupid. Sorry. I hate insulting anyone's opinion here, but really. Did you notice the Upshall/Kennedy fight in game 2? Both guys wear visors. Agree to fight, flip off the lids. Simple. And does a visor affect in any way checking? So, while I agree that it shouldn't be mandatory, I think with the AHL mandatory visor rule, as the older players leave the league, we'll see more and more NHL players wearing visors, and hopefully less and less pucks and sticks to the upper face area. Preventable injuries that have nothing to do with the "manliness" of blocking shots or throwing a check.
May 13, 2008 12:44 PM ET | Delete
I'd like to see the NHL grandfather the visor rule in much the same fashion they did with helmets. All incoming players are required to wear them. All current NHL players have the choice. Everyone worried that going to helmets would weaken the game and it didn't. I don't think the visor to protect eyes will weaken the game, either. No one knows if Coburn would not have suffered injury but the percentage is higher that he wouldn't have. And like rwrusso said, it's a quick flip of the lid to engage in fisticuffs. Save the eyesight and keep the players on the ice where they belong. And my opinion doesn't come as a knee-jerk from this instance. I've been a proponent of visors for a long time. I understand the arguments for players not wearing them and the idea of "free choice" but at some point the league and the clubs need to protect their investments, because that's what these players are...investments.
May 13, 2008 1:01 PM ET | Delete
What an insult to call a player an investment. Do think a player looks in the mirror and says, "I am an investment" or when asked, "Hey, what do you do for a living?" do they reply, "I am an investment." Love him or hate him, Chris Pronger said it best. "The NHL and teams may own our playing rights, but they certainly don't own us."
May 13, 2008 2:22 PM ET | Delete
Whether you or Pronger like it or not, players ARE investments. Welcome to business. Players are chosen for particular skill sets to complement other players on the same team with their own skill sets in an endeavor to make the owner....the guy who pays a contract and invests in their talents...a ton of money. It was not an insult to call them such, nor is an insult or a demeaning intended. Yes, most of them are fine upstanding individuals. Great. But I'm also not going to take my philosophy from the likes of Chris Pronger. Why do you think they call the guys with the deep pockets behind the scenes INVESTORS or INVESTMENT GROUPS? Because they are investing their money in a product, which is the, which broken into its components includes players. Thus players are investments.
May 13, 2008 2:40 PM ET | Delete
And the comment has nothing to do with players not having inherent worth as people or that the people who invest their money into them don't find them to be worthy individual people. It has everything to do with the business aspect of the deal. Owners put in money (ie, invest) in a player and his skills. They're still people and hockey players and, in some cases, idiots. It's not a question of ownership.
May 13, 2008 5:34 PM ET | Delete
Just a note... In the case of Coburn, a visor would not have protected him, because of the direction the puck was traveling. It would have gotten under the visor. I've always said, though, if I ever played at that level, I would wear a full cage...
May 13, 2008 7:17 PM ET | Delete
...and there you have the difference between a player's view of themselves and a fan/owner's view of them. Zholtok, you MUST wear a 3 piece suit tomorrow to work. Not a 2 piece, nor a sport jacket, but a full 3 piece type. You represent my company and therfore I expect you to look your best. Also, you MUST start driving a car that is less than 3 years old. I need to protect my investments. Any questions?
May 13, 2008 8:34 PM ET | Delete
Can we bring this back on topic and not just flame each other??? Thanks guys for commenting. I really do appreciate it. SYF
May 13, 2008 9:27 PM ET | Delete
You're funny, Duckman. And I don't need to wear a suit. I represent and work for myself. So I'll wear what I like. But while my boss/owners in 99% of the world can't tell me what I can wear, they can hold me responsible for how I present myself outside of the workplace (be it an office or a rink) because I do represent them, even in my personal life. And inside the workplace they CAN tell me how to act and what to wear, so if the NHL makes the decision to protect its players by requiring visors, then that's all there is too it. But thanks for your commentary. Sorry, SYF, I didn't know I was flaming Duckie by responding to his comment and not making a personal attack on him. Apologies for deflecting the discussion.
May 13, 2008 9:28 PM ET | Delete
I agree with rwrusso and SYF (great blog as usual). I think it needs to remain a choice because serious injuries above the visor level is not very common. Yes, there were unfortunate circumstances, Brian Berard being the extreme one, but we are not dealing with the concussions and head injuries that were so commonplace before the helmet rule. The visor itself is not so effective as stick and pucks get under the mask (Drury vs Penguins is one of many examples). Because of this, and the hinderence of vision (i play with a full shield in games and no helmet in no-contact practice and the vision difference is huge) and the opposition from the players, I dont believe it should be mandated. I think it is stupid not to, especially just to look macho, but it is a chioce and it should remain one. Once again, great blog and topic SYF. Looking forward to you getting on the main site (any day now?) Go Penguins! ;)
May 13, 2008 9:29 PM ET | Delete
Zholtok, I dont think SYF's comment was directed at you. Probably saw Ducksfan to be flaming you.
May 13, 2008 9:34 PM ET | Delete
Rags, your points on the downside (sticks getting caught, etc) are valid. And I've never had too much issue with it being a choice. It's a tough issue to pin down, to be sure. But I do believe that should the decision be made on some level to eventually require them, it won't be the end of the world. A visor would help more than it would hinder. For now it's a choice thing and I'm fine with it. If they mandate them or grandfather them, I'm fine with that, too.
May 13, 2008 11:23 PM ET | Delete
Choice! (Great blog SYF.) Go ahead NHL - mandate full visors. Might as well require full body armor too - head to toe. Next step is to allow full use of the stick as a weapon and tactic of the game and also let each team have the use of one mace per side just for good measure. Hoplites on Ice courtesy of Legislators-R-Us. Look, I don't want to see anyone injured, but where does the nonsense end? I guess we could mandate boot wheels in place of skate blades, along with nerf pucks and styrofoam sticks. "Dim the lights, you can guess the rest. Oh oh catch that buzz - 'choice' is the drug I´m thinking of."
May 14, 2008 8:40 AM ET | Delete
blueine - You have to be joking. That makes no sense. Have you seen hockey equipment? It practically is full body armor. These guys are well protected, and when they block shots CORRECTLY, they are fine. Watch the Coach's Corner clip of Drury with his wrists exposed near the point. That's how guys get hurt. Visors, mandatory or not, could prevent many (not all) injuries to the upper face, both by sticks and pucks. If you want to argue it affects vision, explain to me why most of the most skilled guys wear them: Crosby, Malkin, AO, etc. Maybe it does for some guys. But as the AHL guys adjust to wearing them, I think it's likely they'll keep them on, and by choice or mandated, I think we'll eventually see most players wearing visors. We're not talking full cages or shields here. But speaking of, does anyone here not like NCAA hockey? They wear full cages or sheilds, and the game is just as exciting and physical.
May 14, 2008 10:36 AM ET | Delete
Obviously, you didn't pick up the innuendo and sarcasm of my post rwusso. Full body armor? Do you have any idea what that constitutes? Hockey players DO NOT wear the type of armor I was referring to with my irony-laced words. A mace and Hoplites? Styrofoam sticks, etc? Geeeeeeez. I have no idea what you read. As to vision qualities, I said nothing. And regarding actually seeing any hockey equipment, yes, I think I did see a hockey helmet once, if I remember correctly. (Or was that a goalie mask? Yes, I think it was a mask I saw in a movie with a character named Jason Voorees - that's it!!!) You might try re-reading my post and reading what I actually wrote, opposed to reacting to what you thought you saw because you don't like the position I've taken. Then again...
May 14, 2008 3:57 PM ET | Delete
I did, but that's why I said you have to be joking. But you never know on this site. If you're talking Kevlar bullet-proof military body armor, then no, they don't wear that. But they do wear very good equipment that protects them in most instances. I was commenting to everyone in regards to vision quality. If you want to make an intelligent counter-point, by all means please do so. The irony doesn't really help answer the question though, does it?
May 14, 2008 5:14 PM ET | Delete
David-Alexandre Beauregard lost his eye because a stick got caught in his visor. They are NOT a cure all.
May 14, 2008 5:19 PM ET | Delete
Of course it answers the question. Choice. No mandates. Leave it a choice. If young players coming through the system prefer shields and within 10 years every hockey player is wearing them, then fine. I have no problem with that. The point is simple - the wearing of shields does not need to be mandated, grandfathered, legislated, forced, coerced, or otherwise fooled with.
May 14, 2008 5:59 PM ET | Delete
Great blog SYF!Really, it should be a choice. Players know entirely well the the possibility of getting injured when they play this game. If they choose to wear visors, great. If not, also great. Heck, if they choose a full face-mask, awesome. But it's their choice.
May 14, 2008 6:07 PM ET | Delete
I'm divided on this one...It should be a choice in that, these guys are all grown men and you take your risks. Though I see the argument of GMs wanting to protect their investments, because that is what players are. They are individuals, but they are also investments. These guys sign contracts and make millions of dollars on them, so if a GM wanted to write into the contract "All players must wear visors" I don't see a problem with that.
May 14, 2008 10:54 PM ET | Delete
Blueline, JS et al...you guys are awesome and I thank you for your comments. I would like to point out that NO contract can have a clause written into it - and be legal - regarding mandatory visors without it being first ratified by the Union and brought up as an issue in Collective Bargaining. That is one reason why I think that this issue is moot. Until the Union decides it is in their best interest to better protect it's members - which is an anachronism in today's world because all Unions are striving for better workplace safety and protective equipment - then it will not allow the issue to even sniff the CBA. End of story.
May 14, 2008 11:12 PM ET | Delete
There is no need to discuss the vision difference. It is a significant difference in many player's monds and that is all that need to be said. It outweighs the few injuries each year....... otherwise the players would be running for shields and masks. If it ever happens, be prepared for WAY more concusions. There is measureably less respect when players are fully protected and head and face shots will become commonplace.
May 15, 2008 2:42 AM ET | Delete
Yup. Respect factor would suffer, the illustration of which was another intent of my sarcasm involving the use of full body armor, a mace on a chain for each team (with a maximum spike length of four inches - sharpened, naturally), allowed use of sticks as a device to stop your opponents, etc. We'll incorporate those (and more as we think them up) into a live show. I can see it now! 'Hoplites on Ice' aka 'The Hanson Brothers Unleashed'. We'd make a fortune, although insurance costs and the necessary replacement skaters to step in for the mangled, fallen ones might get a bit dicey.
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